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The closure of Sant' Antnin Waste Treatment Plant

PL candidate Jose Herrera writes: After years of mismanagement by previous administration we inherited a waste situation that lacked vision and commitment

19 May 2017, 1:07pm
We have spent the last four years striving to reduce the discomfort and eliminating the dangers as a result of the emissions at Sant’ Antnin
We have spent the last four years striving to reduce the discomfort and eliminating the dangers as a result of the emissions at Sant’ Antnin
Of the three first environmental initiatives launched by the Prime Minister on the second week of the campaign, one particular proposal gives respite to the people of Marsascala, Zabbar, Fgura and Zejtun.  The proposal consists of the gradual closure of Sant’ Antnin Waste Treatment Facility in Marsascala. I recall the futile resistance from residents in Marsascala and other neighbourhoods against the construction of the plant. The genuine concerns expressed by the people proved to be correct and there have since been a litany of complaints on odours emanating from the plant. I also recall the position that Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, back then a freshly elected leader of the opposition, took at the time where he was four square behind the concerns of the residents. So it was no surprise that the Prime Minister announced the gradual closure of Sant’ Antnin; a clear demonstration of a man who puts principles into practice. 

We have spent the last four years striving to reduce the discomfort and eliminating the dangers as a result of the emissions at Sant’ Antnin. This we have done whilst we constructed the Malta North Treatment plant in record time, thanks to the efforts of Wasteserv. Following its first year of commissioning, we are now in a position to increase the operational hours to cover the treatment of the mixed municipal waste, more commonly known as the black bag, away from Sant’ Antnin. This is by no means an easy feat since this has to be done concurrently with our efforts to treat all the black bag collection thus eliminating once and for all any dumping of untreated black bags from Ghallis engineered landfill. 

All this is being made possible following detailed planning that my Ministry and Wasteserv have been doing. We have done this whilst removing the Eco Contribution, a tax on the commercial sector which was being passed on to the consumers without tangible benefits. We did so without exonerating the industry from their responsibility for the management of packaging waste. Packaging waste is one of the waste streams most frequently found in black bags. Through continuous education campaigns and collaborations with industry we moved forward to increase separation of dry recyclables such as plastic, metal containers and paper away from the black bag. We have also introduced organic waste collection, initially with a pilot project, which has now been extended to cover all of Gozo and a number of towns in Malta and a new Labour government will continue on these efforts and extend the organic waste collection across the whole of the Maltese Islands.

All these efforts have been carefully costed, for the management of waste comes at a considerable bill. After years of mismanagement by previous administration we inherited a waste situation that lacked vision and commitment. It was only at the last moment that in 2013 we found that tens of millions in EU funds were on the verge of being lost as a result of the inaction. We changed this and in 2014 we launched a waste management plan, a plan that will be implemented over the next seven years; a plan that looks at waste as a resource. Within this plan is the closure of the Sant’ Antnin.

The Sant’ Antnin decommissioning will be done in a number of stages, with the first step being the phasing out of black bag deliveries to Sant’ Antnin followed by the closure and relocation of the digestors. Completion of this phase will see a great reduction in odours. The second phase is the relocation of the Material Recovery Facility which is a relatively cleaner operation. This facility deals mainly with dry recyclables and receives the grey and green bags as well as material which is either collected from bring-in sites or delivered directly. Over the coming years we will discuss this operation with the private sector so that this operation will be relocated and further investments carried out so that we increase the added value in the recycling industry. 

These plans will only partially contribute to the national waste strategy. Our plan for the next seven years will see the development of a sustainable waste industry that will contribute to our environment through reductions in landfill practice that will bring us in line with top performing nations, reduce our green house gas emissions and become a contributor to our economy. It is indeed a very ambitious plan but following the overhaul of our electricity infrastructure we now need to tackle our waste infrastructure. 

Finally the closure of Sant’ Antnin will offer the opportunity to return to the people of Marsascala open spaces for recreation that will contribute to the quality of life.    

Jose Herrera is environment minister and Labour candidate on the 1st district 

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